BWW Interview: Edward Fox Talks Betjeman Play SAND IN THE SANDWICHES
Edward Fox's stellar career ranges from Hamlet and The Go-Between to The Day of the Jackal. He brings one-man John Betjeman play Sand in the Sandwiches to London's Theatre Royal Haymarket on 30 May.
How does having family in the business change your view of the acting world?
I don't think its changed my view at all - the acting world is the acting world. The fact that my family is in it is just the way things are.
What was your first professional job?
Sebastian in Twelfth Night, Farnham Repertory Theatre, 1960 ish.
Do you have any particular career highlights or favourite roles?
Always Shakespearian roles are the favourites, I don't know why. Hamlet I have played three times, so you learn how bad an actor you are because you realise how tough the job is. You should really only play it when you're 80!
When did you first encounter Betjeman's work?
As a young man in the early Sixties.
How has your response to it changed over time?
Instead of being just charmed by his poetry, the more you read it and are involved with it, the more you become aware of how penetrably perceptive it is about human motive and power. Like a fine wine - It gets better with age.
How much did you know of Betjeman's life before embarking on the show?
I didn't know much about it then, and I've not studied it since. It's not necessary for the undertaking of the role.
Betjeman's work often conjures a lost England. Do you share that sense of nostalgia?
He believed in eternal values and the importance of the quality of life. If that's at all nostalgic (which I don't think it is) then I am certainly at one with him in sharing his feeling.
Does it perhaps have different connotations in the wake of Brexit?
I'm pretty sure he would believe in democratic decision-making being made in the British realm and not farmed out to a European federal coalition.
How challenging is it to do a one-man show over a tour? Do you have strategies for pacing yourself?
No. I don't know what 'going to work is', I just go and I do the job. All I do is make sure I am ready for the performance. Henry V said "All things are ready, if our minds be so".
You're known for your forthrightness - do you think actors can or even should speak out on issues that they're passionate about?
No. I think they can speak about the theatre and the business they are involved with. If you're asked for an opinion on something then of course you have to answer it. Of course, I have spoken out, but it's always been in response to a question. Your answer must be informed by your own integrity. If it's just flying in the wind, then you'd be better to keep your mouth shut.
Any advice to young actors?
All advice is bad advice and good advice is fatal - Oscar Wilde.
Do you have a favourite Betjeman poem?
Almost all of them become your favourite the minute you read them. You never find anything that is not worth reading and thinking about or listening to. Sometimes they're serious, sometimes they're in a lighter vein. Especially, "Devonshire Street" is a great poem.
Photo credit: Geraint Lewis